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Shopping Mysteries Solved - Why Is It Called Black Friday?

In the United States Thanksgiving traditionally falls on the last Thursday in November. It is a day of feasting, visiting, and relaxing. And in recent years many people have ended the day - not by rolling into bed - but by standing in line. For most stores and retailers the day after Thanksgiving is the official kick off to the holiday shopping season. To draw in the crowds they offer massive discounts and some incredible sales. But there is a catch.

Quantities are limited and the best sales are only available in the wee hours of the morning. The result is a frenzied throng of shoppers braving the brisk November air, just waiting for the stores to open. OK - so you get the picture. But what does any of this have to do with the color black? The most well known explanation has to do with accounting - of all things.

When a company operates at a loss - people say that it is in the "red". This is because negative numbers are usually written in a red color. The opposite is true as well. When a company operates at a profit - we say it is in the "black". In the retail business - many stores operate at a loss for most of the calendar year. They make the bulk of their money during the holiday season. This is when shoppers are in the spending mood - buying gifts for others and a few things for themselves as well. Because the day after Thanksgiving is now the biggest shopping day of the year - this is the day when stores will start the transition of going from the red into the black.

This was not always the case.

History has shown that the term was used as early as the 1960's but with a much different connotation. It seems that law enforcement officials would use the term in a negative sense because this day always resulted in increased traffic congestion. Of course, storekeepers did not take well to this definition. They did not want customers to stay away to avoid crowds. So they propagated the accounting relationship - and lucky for them it stuck. So this year on the day after Turkey Day - as you wait outside in the freezing cold weather, you can turn to the person next to you in line and impress them with your knowledge of Black Friday trivia.